Dr. Maria Montessori, 1870 – 1952 was Italy’s first woman Doctor of Medicine and a skilled observer of behavior. During her work with disadvantaged children, she observed that children seemed to learn more effectively when they have objects to work with. She soon began to design materials for the children to use. Following intensive observation and study, Dr. Montessori became convinced that her materials and methods could be advantageous for all children. In 1907, she opened the first school in Europe based upon her philosophy and methods.The essence of Montessori Education is that every child is treated with respect: “help me to help myself” This is an involved concept; it leads to the achievement of graduated tasks and the parallel experiences of success. The child in this way builds his/her self-esteem, concentration, respect for, and cooperation with classmates. The child also gains the ability to make choices and accept responsibility. Intrinsic motivation is an important element of the Montessori philosophy; true motivation to learn comes from the child, not from external motivators such as rewards or punishments.There are three key components to Montessori Education: the environment, the adult, and the child. The environment is specially prepared and scientifically designed to aid in learning. The role of the adult is to implement the philosophy and provide the link between the environment and the child. The child uses the guidance from the adult and materials in the environment to learn at their own pace – thus completing a dynamic triad.
The schools strive to supply the Montessori child with the same teacher for three years. This allows the teacher to gain intimate knowledge of each child’s unique abilities from previous years to the present. The Montessori Program ideally groups children in three-year age groups. The younger children are stimulated by their older peers’ abilities enabling them to observe and model their skills.The classroom has a heritage. Knowledge and behavior is passed from one level to the next. The older children reinforce their own self-esteem and knowledge by providing leadership and academic learning to younger ones.The Montessori curriculum areas are Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics, Language and the Cultural subjects of Geography, History, Botany and Zoology. Music, Art and Movement (Physical Education) are integrated into these areas.Subjects are introduced with multi-sensory, hand-on materials that encourage concrete learning before the child moves on to abstract learning. The cultural subjects are integrated and expansive, to encourage an unlimited base of learning.